Lackluster non-conference dates loom

Jun. 28, 2014 @ 09:02 PM

Games involving teams from college football’s top conferences will soon bolster home schedules for the Big Four. An ACC agreement with Notre Dame will kick in, too.

But for this fall, there’s no such glamour ticket game. Only North Carolina’s visit to East Carolina stands out among the non-conference games, which it would in any year.

No disrespect to Gale Sayers and John Riggins, or Eric Tipton and Ace Parker, but Kansas and Duke in September would be generating a lot more chatter if it were men’s basketball up in Cameron Indoor. Even in September.

But the Jayhawks are coming to Wallace Wade Stadium. And they will be the only “power five” opponent — from the Southeastern, Big 10, Big 12 or Pac-12 — visiting the Big Four other than ACC brethren.

The Jayhawks were 3-9 on the gridiron a year ago, dead last of 10 teams in the Big 12. “Power,” of course, is in the eye of the beholder.

The Tar Heels’ trek to Greenville is the only other non-conference game with a “power five” member as a “guest.” This year, it is far and away the best non-conference college football game within the state borders — yet one hard-pressed to make so much as a ripple in the national college football landscape outside the state border.

Otherwise, there is San Diego State at North Carolina and Tulane at Duke.

It’s a season where “thank goodness for the ACC home games” has great value. National champion Florida State comes to Raleigh.

There are 12 home non-conference games among Duke, North Carolina, N.C. State, Wake Forest and ECU. Six will come from the Football Bowl Subdivision, including two that finished in the top half of their league’s divisions, two in the lower half of their divisions and two that are independents.

One of the independents, Old Dominion, won eight times but also gave up 80 points in its last outing to a team no better than fifth of seven in the ACC’s Coastal Division.

The Football Championship Subdivision teams scheduled are not coming off good results either. Of the six from FCS, only Liberty finished top three in its league and four finished within either a game of last place or next to last place in their leagues. The two from the Big South in addition to the Flames were in the league’s bottom three.

Will it get better? Schedules are not complete, and multiple opportunities to add opponents are available in the next three to five years. But among the published reports so far:

• Duke hosts Northwestern in 2015, Army in 2016, Northwestern and Baylor in 2017 and Army in 2018.
• North Carolina has South Carolina in Charlotte in 2015, Ohio State in 2017 and East Carolina in 2018.
• N.C. State has Troy in 2015, Notre Dame in 2016 and East Carolina in 2019.
• Wake Forest hosts Indiana in 2015, Tulane in 2016 and 2020, and Rice in either 2017 or 2018.
• East Carolina has Virginia Tech in 2015, N.C. State in 2016, Virginia Tech and Brigham Young in 2017, North Carolina in 2018, Virginia Tech in 2019, Marshall and West Virginia in 2020 and N.C. State in 2022.

The following are home non-conference football opponents for the Big Four and East Carolina in 2014:
• DUKE: Elon, Kansas, Tulane.
• UNC: Liberty, San Diego State.
• N.C. STATE: Georgia Southern; Old Dominion; Presbyterian.
• WAKE FOREST: Gardner-Webb, Army.
• ECU: N.C. Central, North Carolina.

Contact the writer at awooten@hendersondispatch.com.